Journal of the Northern Renaissance

~ Radical Open Access ~

A Provincial English Reader of Lipsius: John Trussell of Winchester and the ‘Lipsian paradigm’

Robert F. W. Smith[1]

[1] In recent years the Dutch classical scholar and high priest of Renaissance neostoicism Justus Lipsius has benefitted from sustained scholarly interest (Constantinidou 2012, Brooke 2012, Machielsen 2013). Largely, however, this interest has concentrated on Lipsius himself, and the nature and meaning of his principal works of political philosophy, rather than on the contemporary readers of his books. The most notable exception, Adriana McCrea’s Constant Minds, examines readers of Lipsius who were themselves of major national importance in England, such as Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Ralegh (McCrea 1997). This article will reveal a hitherto neglected side of this increasingly familiar story. Drawing principally upon the manuscript writings of John Trussell of Winchester, it will show that humanist writing could find an audience outside the elite circles of London, and that its influence could be felt in the writings of those who were not neostoics in an obvious sense – or indeed philosophers at all. The early seventeenth-century Englishmen discussed in McCrea’s volume had in common “a complex of preoccupations… with political participation, virtue, the disjuncture between private and public virtue, and the lessons of history” in a world in which “such preoccupations were most fully addressed by the Flemish philologist, Justus Lipsius” (McCrea 1997: xix-xx). Since these were also among John Trussell’s preoccupations, this article will discuss his work with regard to the ‘Lipsian paradigm’ discussed by McCrea as well. It will conclude by arguing that a proper understanding of the influence of Justus Lipsius on John Trussell can enable scholars to understand the most high-profile and fascinating episode in Trussell’s life, his publication in 1595 of the Jesuit martyr Robert Southwell’s posthumous Triumphs Over Death, in an entirely new way – one that demonstrates how religious divisions in the early modern era were capable of being bridged by classical scholarship.

[2] John Trussell (1575-1648) was not a figure of national importance. Born in London, Trussell removed to Winchester around 1598, and thereafter became a fierce local patriot. Love for the city, and regret for the economic decline it had suffered since its days of greatest prosperity and importance in the middle ages, suffuse Trussell’s unpublished writings. He became a freeman of the city in 1606, and in due course rose to a position among the highest echelons of the city’s oligarchy, serving as mayor on two occasions (1624-5 and 1633-4). As well as an administrator, he was a man of letters. Apart from his association with Robert Southwell he is perhaps best known for his published works of the year 1636: his Continuation of Samuel Daniel’s History of England and the poems he contributed to the Annalia Dubrensia collection celebrating Robert Dover’s ‘Olympic Games’ which at that time were held every year in the Cotswolds (Trussell 1636; Drayton and others 1636). He also published a little-regarded complaint poem, The First Rape of Fair Helen, at the beginning of his literary career, in 1595 (Shaaber 1957: 407-448).

[3] Justus Lipsius was already well known by the time Trussell embarked upon his writing career. Among his major works, De constantia libri duo (1584) contains the fullest expression of the philosophy of neostoicism, while Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae libri sex (1589) is now perhaps best understood as “a critical response to as well as a partial appropriation of Machiavellian political theory” (Brooke 2012: 27). An English translation of De constantia by Sir John Stradling was also available in London by this time (Lipsius 1594). It was printed for sale by Richard Jones, stationer, who also sold Trussell’s Fair Helen, so it is tempting to imagine that Trussell’s first contact with the work of Lipsius was through Jones’s shop. This must remain conjecture, however.

[4] Trussell’s manuscript writings are more extensive than his printed works, and they also encompass both history and poetry. His most major undertaking was his history of Winchester, which exists in two versions: a draft manuscript known as The Origin of Cities (named for its introductory material on the first foundation of great cities, including Winchester), which was being written between 1625 and 1633 and takes the history up to the end of the reign of Edward III; and a longer, more polished version entitled The Touchstone of Tradition which takes it up to the end of James I, and which appears to have been written during 1642-44 (HRO Origin; HRO Touchstone). Still more important for the study of Trussell’s life and career is the miscellany known as the Benefactors of Winchester manuscript. This manuscript contains records of the benefactions of major charitable givers to the city of Winchester, together with poetic eulogies to their generosity, and it also contains a variety of other material, including three open letters written by Trussell in 1622, 1623 and 1637 to the corporation of Winchester, and his long poetic history of Winchester, The Declaration of Caerguent, which is narrated by the city’s genius loci (Bodl. Benefactors).

[5] Lipsian influences on Trussell in these works range from the obvious to the subtle. The opening section of the Touchstone of Tradition finds Trussell drawing upon the powerful eloquence of Lipsius in a long quotation which reveals his heightened preoccupation with the decay and death of cities and nations. The passage appears to have been translated directly from Lipsius rather than via Sir John Stradling’s ‘Englished’ version of De constantia:

as each particuler body hath yts youth, yts strength, ould Age, and Death, so is yt with great citties; they begyn, they encrease, they stand & flowrishe, But all to this end, that they may decaye… Vennice that hath flowrished aboue 2340 yeers, and London & Antwerp, the bewtie of citties, their dayes must likewise come att length and in the end turne to nothing. (HRO Touchstone: 9)

Lipsius’s “fatall whir[l]pole of Necessity” (HRO Touchstone: 9) now threatened to pull Europe, the present seat of world power, into its vortex of destruction. During the years of civil war, in a city precariously situated on the frontline of the southern English theatre – a city already scarred by violence and living in fear of worse – these stoic and realistic strains were especially resonant for Trussell. Later in the Touchstone Trussell uses Lipsius as one of his authorities in his defence of the mythical British history; he argues that the legends of Britain’s foundation by Brutus and the subsequent history of his descendants could be accepted on the grounds of oral transmission from the Druids, whose learning was of such sophistication and antiquity “that Lipsius doubteth whether the Druides taught Pythagoras, who is said to live Anno Mundi 2676, or Pythagoras them, the opinion of transanimation, or transmigration of the sowle” (HRO Origin: 15; Lipsius 1604 lib. III, dissert. xii).

[6] Around 1620 Trussell was involved in major disputes with fellow members of the corporation of Winchester over questions of civic governance, and two of the letters preserved in the Benefactors of Winchester collection reflect this. His 1622 letter to mayor Edward White is a manifesto in which he defends himself from claims that he had been too forthright in arguing for the duty of obedience of subordinate officers to the mayor. An important passage in this letter sets out Trussell’s view of the proper ordering of the civic community. The obvious intellectual influences in the passage are the Bible and the work of the Oxford Aristotelian John Case, whose Sphaera Civitatis, which Trussell quotes, has been described by C. W. Brooks as “a bulwark of conventional Elizabethan political thought” (Brooks 1986: 223). A closer look reveals the traces of Lipsian influence, however. Trussell’s quotation of the phrase ‘salus publica suprema lex est’ is the first clue (Bodl. Benefactors: 42). Deriving from Cicero De Legibus Lib. III capt iii.viii, it was quoted by Lipsius in De constantia: “Ut enim moderatoribus [marginal note: Qui Deo tamen ante omnia curae] reip. salus populi suprema lex est: sic deo, mundi”: ‘for even as unto governors of Commonwealths [which God careth for especially] the safeguard of the people is the highest law, so is the world to God’ (Cicero 1999: 159; Lipsius 1586: 57-58; Lipsius 1594: 84).

[7] The Ciceronian maxim was subsequently quoted by writers indebted to Lipsius: for example, Charron, a French neostoic, cites it in his Of Wisdom, justifying dissimulation and cunning on the part of rulers for the common weal (an example of the prudentia mixta controversially advised by Lipsius for princes in his Politica) (Charron 1608: 358). Some historians of neostoicism, chiefly Oestreich, have considered it a political philosophy very congenial to the early modern state-form, since Lipsius recommends political participation and the vita activa, and depicts the ideal citizen as one who is self-possessed, disciplined, unconcerned with temporal causes such as religious and political enthusiasm, and ready to serve and fight for an autocratic ruler (Oestreich 1982: 30). In Adriana McCrea’s opinion, however, “the Lipsian paradigm in England […] helped to maintain not the power of the state, but the idea of the state as being constituted through a body of healthy and fully participating members” (McCrea 1997: 211). Both of these interpretations dovetail quite well with Trussell’s use of the Ciceronian maxim, with the views he expresses in his letter to Edward White, and with the more traditional sources he uses: he borrows from John Case a classic metaphor of unity, calling the city a ship with its citizens being the sailors, and goes on to urge the mayor that “cittizens should bee of agreable disposition like singers… the Means of the Prosperity of this cittie is and ought to bee the indissoluble union of modest cittizens”. He strictly enjoins obedience on those who are in offices subordinate to the mayor, but acknowledges that “citizens must governe and obay by turnes” (Bodl. Benefactors: 41-42). In Winchester the mayoralty had to change hands every year, so members of the elite took turns at wielding executive power regularly.

[8] The section of the 1623 letter in which Trussell warns the twenty-four (the common council of the city) against “prejudicate opinion” also has a distinctly Lipsian savour, since opinio (‘vain opinion’) in the schema set forth in De constantia is the source of all inconstancy and the mother of ills; it is opposed by Lipsius to ratio, right reason, the ground of wisdom (Lipsius 1594: passim.). “Truthe will best appere when Opinion wants eyes and suggestion ears; sett therefore that aside which is but a sickness of the mind bred by the perverseness of the will and nurst by self-conceite which taketh semblances for substances and things seeming for realities” – this is Trussell, but might almost be Langius (Lipsius’s guru in De constantia) addressing Lipsius (Bodl. Benefactors: 45). The division between public and private morality has also been claimed by Natasha Constantinidou as a feature of the Lipsian paradigm (Constantinidou 2012: passim.). In his polemic Trussell draws the public-private distinction in a less subtle way than Constantinidou argues Lipsius does; for Trussell, the focus is on eradicating private interest from the consideration of public servants. But some followers of Lipsius did the same. The English translation of a work by a French follower of Lipsius (published in 1598) urged: “I beseech you therefore to have more care of your country than of all the world besides, and never prefer your particular profit before the good thereof” (du Vair 1598: 168). In repeated exhortations to his corporation colleagues, through poetry and prose, Trussell made the same point forcefully throughout his career: as a poem addressed to them in 1637 insists, “Citizens simul et per se must strive/ In the Common cause to bee superlative” (Bodl. Benefactors: 4).

[9] Without wishing to digress too far, it is possible to identify another Lipsian influence on Trussell. It may be that a work of 1616 entitled The A,B,C of Arms, which is advertised on the title page as “an introduction directory whereby the order of military exercises may easily be understood and readily practised”, is an unattributed work of Trussell (I. T. 1616). It would require comprehensive computer analysis of the kind used by Hugh Craig and Arthur Kinney in their work on the attribution of early modern plays to determine with an acceptable degree of certainty that the ‘I. T.’ who wrote the The A,B,C of Arms was John Trussell of Winchester (Craig and Kinney 2009). Overall, though, the evidence is quite compelling, and can be briefly rehearsed.

[10] The A,B,C comes from a period in which many writers with military interests or affiliations were responding to a perceived need for improved militia training in England, and specifically an English drill manual which could equip Englishmen who took up arms with the conceptual and practical tools necessary to replicate the success of the armies of Prince Maurice of Nassau and his subordinate commanders in the Netherlands (Lawrence 2009). Gunther Rothenburg makes the point that “the reintroduction of drill into the army was an essential element of the Orangist reforms and a basic contribution to the modern military system” (Rothenburg 1986: 41). From the conclusion of peace with Spain in 1604 until 1612, the government left off the regular exercise of England’s militias, an interlude known as the military vacation; militia exercises resumed only when a succession crisis in Cleves-Julich nearly brought an end to the Twelve Years’ Truce in the Netherlands (1609-1621). By that time it had become conventional among military writers to call for regular, even daily drilling to enable England’s militias to reach the standard of proficiency now attained by Continental armies (Lawrence 2009: 89, 135-156). In the judgement of David Lawrence, the section on military exercises in the A,B,C of Arms is heavily based on a publication of 1614, Captain Edward Panton’s broadsheet Table of the Art Military, which included concise instructions on words of command and drum signals, together with other useful material for drilling soldiers. In Lawrence’s opinion the fact that only a quarter of the A,B,C’s length describes how drill could be carried out “justifies the author’s own description of himself” as an “inkhorn soldier” (Lawrence 2009: 153-154). Because of the work’s indebtedness to Panton, Lawrence suspects that I. T. may have either been a member of, or known a member of, the Artillery Company.

[11] Trussell undoubtedly fulfils the second of these criteria: his second cousin Thomas Trussell was a soldier, a member of the Company, and published a pamphlet during the 1610s with identical aims to the A,B,C. His pamphlet was entitled The Soldier Pleading His Own Cause, and was intended to demonstrate that soldiering was the noblest of professions, upon which a free and civilized society wholly depended, and to defend it from attack. In the A,B,C the soldier is eulogized as “a Defender of liberall Arts, an Vp-holder of the seate of Iustice… a Maintayner of the Libertie, and quiet of his Countrie” (I. T. 1616: B2). Both regret the contempt in which the English nation seemed to hold soldiers and soldiering: “what meaneth the vulgar multitude of our English Nation so maliciously to contemne Souldiership[?]”,Thomas Trussell enquired (Trussell 1619: 15). A second and third edition of The Soldier Pleading His Own Cause survive, “much enlarged with Military Instructions”: the surviving editions of the work are therefore an actual drill manual, but the original was not. It is unknown when the first one was printed, and it may be that the A,B,C of Arms and The Soldier Pleading His Own Cause were thought of and/or written in association with one another by the Trussells in or before 1616. The pamphlets have different publishers, but this does not mean they are not associated.

[12] Several other factors, perhaps not significant in themselves but highly suggestive taken all together, reinforce the possibility that John Trussell was the author. A quotation from Horace – “amphora cepi/ Institui currente rota nunc urcens exit” – which is the epigraph to Fair Helen, and rounds off an impassioned passage in Trussell’s important letter to Mayor Edward White in 1622, also appears in a prominent place in the A,B,C, where it signals the end of the work (Shaaber 1957: 420; Bodl. Benefactors: 42; I. T. 1616: C6). Immediately afterwards the author writes that “opus & usus, my more than ordinary visiters, knock at my study-dore… and command me to attend profit priuate, not publike, more magistrarum” (I. T. 1616: C6). This is another iteration of the contrast between ‘public good’ and ‘private gain’ which Trussell made repeatedly, almost obsessively, throughout his writing. I. T. is also seemingly identifying himself as a lawyer at the beginning of the work, saying “I practise in the Schole of Peace and pro feodo [‘for a fee’] punish others”; John Trussell was an attorney by profession in Winchester in 1616 (I. T. 1616: A3). Even the way I. T. introduces the work, saying that Machiavelli was “objected to” for writing about military affairs as a civilian, and desiring “to free myself of the like imputation”, is strongly reminiscent of another trope in John Trussell’s self-justificatory public letters of the 1620s, his keen sense that faults were being imputed to him unjustly, that his words and writings would be “misconstructed”, “ill taken” (I. T. 1616: A3; Bodl. Benefactors: 43).

[13] The influence of Lipsius on the A, B, C is clear. Acknowledging the second-hand nature of the material in the book, I. T. writes that “in [this] collection of mine, as a learned Writer of our time said, though on another subiect, I may truly say, Omnia nostra esse & nihil. All things are mine, in respect of the gathering, or disposition; nothing, or at least very little, in regard of the inuention of the things themselues” (I. T. 1616: A6). The “learned writer” quoted was Justus Lipsius: the remark appears in the preliminary matter of his Politica, an “astonishingly complex yet concise handbook for rulers” (in the words of Mark Morford) which is composed of quotations from classical authors, ingeniously arranged by Lipsius with linking commentary so as to form a tapestry of modern wisdom, woven from the words of the ancients (Morford 1991: 156; Lipsius 2004: 232). It seems reasonable to infer that the form of the A,B,C was consciously influenced by, or even based on the Politica, which, Rothenburg notes, “has been described as the intellectual basis of the Dutch reforms” (Rothenburg 1986: 35). Lipsius was Maurice of Nassau’s tutor at Leiden, and, argues Lawrence, “the Mauricean military reforms reflected his teacher’s love of classical military theory” (Lawrence 2009: 138; cf. Brooke 2012: 16). Lipsius’s De militia Romana had been published in 1595. I. T. refers to Lipsius by name later in the text, representing his view as being that “salus reipublica plus fortitudine quam concordia consistit”: ‘the safety of the republic consists more in strength than peace’. This shows that I. T. had found in Lipsius’s teachings a justification of his own view that the wrong kind of peace could produce worse evils than war: “Though it be to be wished [I. T. writes] that wee, which haue so long found the fruit of Peace, should neuer feele the direfull effects of Warre: yet may it likewise be feared, that too much Securitie by lulling our senses asleepe, may open a passage to danger” (I. T. 1616: A4). He later paraphrases Juvenal: “heu patimur longae pacis mala”: ‘alas, we are suffering from the evils of a long peace’ (Juvenal 1612: 48). It has been argued in the past that Lipsius’s works were congenial to those of a militarist and authoritarian disposition; if this is the case, and considering his association with the study of the Roman military, it is perhaps not surprising that the writer of the A,B,C of Arms should have claimed him as an ideological ally (Oestreich 1982; cf. Brooke 2012: 15-18).

[14] We can turn now to one of the most misunderstood features of John Trussell’s literary career, his association with the Jesuit priest Robert Southwell. Southwell was for ten years the leading light of the Roman Catholic mission in England. A prolific writer of verse and prose, his mission has been seen as a literary as well as a spiritual one – an ‘apostolate of letters’ (Janelle 1971; Pilarz 2004). For three years of that decade he was a prisoner of the state, undergoing repeated torture and interrogation. He was executed in the spring of 1595, having revealed nothing of any use to the authorities concerning his friends and comrades (Devlin 1956). If ever a man could be said to have triumphed over death, it was he. It was fitting, then, that shortly afterwards his prose tract entitled The Triumphs Over Death, a “consolatorie epistle for afflicted minds”, was published in London. This work was prefaced by three dedicatory verses written by John Trussell.

[15] The Triumphs Over Death was composed for Phillip Howard, Earl of Arundel, in August 1591, as a work of consolation on the occasion of his sister’s death, and it remained private until Trussell “thought it best the same in publike-wise/ In Print to publish” (Southwell 1595b: A3). There was a close personal connection between Southwell and Arundel, for Southwell’s patroness was Anne Dacre, Countess of Arundel, herself a Catholic. She had become a convert in the early 1580s, and with her newly converted husband’s blessing, Arundel House in the Strand shortly became a crucial English stronghold of the Counter-Reformation. Southwell entered the household in 1586. The Earl had been arrested the previous year, but with all the resources of the Countess supporting him, Southwell was able to operate under the noses of the authorities – writing and disseminating his works, administering the sacraments and making pastoral visits to the faithful – for six years. Among the tasks facing Southwell was that of providing spiritual instruction and consolation to his patroness’s imprisoned husband. The Triumphs Over Death is a product of that relationship.

[16] The first of Trussell’s three verses preceding Southwell’s text is an ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ addressed to “the Worshipful M. Richard Sackuile, Edward Sackuile Cicilie Sackuile and Anne Sackuile, the hopeful issue of… Robert Sackville, Esquire” (Southwell 1595b: A3). Robert Sackville (1560-1608) was the future second Baron Buckhurst and second Earl of Dorset. He had been married to Margaret Howard, the Earl of Arundel’s sister, from 1580 until her death in 1591. In this first poem, addressing Robert and Margaret’s children, Trussell says that he, the work’s “vnworthy foster-sire”, has “darde/ To make you patronizers of this warde” (Southwell 1595b: A2). He refers to the Sackville children as

You glorieng issues of that glorious dame,
Whose life is made the subiect of deaths will:

He continues:

To you, succeeding hopes of mothers fame,
I dedicate this fruit of Southwels quille:
He for your vncles comfort first it writ,
I for your consolation print and send you it. (Southwell 1595b: A2)

The ‘uncle’ he refers to is of course the Earl of Arundel, whose death, a little later in 1595 than Southwell’s, appears to be the direct occasion of Trussell’s going to print, for the consolation of Arundel’s nieces and nephews. The second of Trussell’s verses is a poem in praise of the work and its author, Southwell. The third is addressed ‘To the Reader’, and states Trussell’s reasons for publishing it:

that impartiall eies
Might reading judge, and judging praise the wight,
The which this Triumph ouer Death did write. (Southwell 1595b: A3)

In the third poem Trussell anticipates the criticism of some who “to reade what Southwell writ will not endure” because of his religion: “the Preachers no Precisian, sure” (Southwell 1595b: A3). Depicting the critics as Momus, the legendary carping spirit of antiquity, Trussell pleads that their censure might fall upon himself alone, and not the author or the work.

[17] The simple fact of the connection with Southwell has caused most people who have devoted any thought to the matter to take it for granted that Trussell was a Roman Catholic. Pierre Janelle, a biographer of Southwell, assumed that he was a “Catholic man of letters” (Janelle 1971: 150). F. W. Brownlow felt able to say “Trussell was undoubtedly Catholic”, whilst also saying that the publication of Fair Helen and The Triumphs Over Death in 1595 was “as much the work of a young man keen to make himself known in literary circles as it is a gesture by a Catholic partisan” (Brownlow 1996: 53). But, as Martin Shaaber has pointed out, “from The Triumphs Over Death alone, one would hardly suspect that Trussell or even Southwell was a Roman Catholic” (Shaaber 1957: 413). Shaaber went on to say that Trussell’s later writings (what he had seen of them) “do not necessarily prove more than conservatism” (Shaaber 195: 414). Leaving aside the complications of using the word ‘conservatism’ as a descriptor of loyalty to the Laudian Church of England, Shaaber was right to conclude that “one would want something more explicit than antipuritanism, deploring of the decay of religious foundations, and complaints against the degeneracy of the age to feel sure that… the alderman and mayor of the city was a Roman Catholic”.

[18] It is true that Trussell’s parents were tried and subsequently excommunicated for non-receipt of communion in Archbishop Bancroft’s metropolitical visitation of 1608 (HRO 1608: 58, 73). But in general the evidence is that Trussell was a loyal and orthodox member of the Church of England. There is no record of him ever suffering the penalties of recusancy during a long career in public administration. In 1640, the Long Parliament appointed him one of Winchester’s subsidy collectors for the army in the north, and it is difficult to imagine MPs consenting to a known Romanist being given such responsibility (although admittedly he was not among the persons named when the statute was renewed shortly afterwards) (Raithby 1819: 58-101). Trussell’s manuscript writings evince a dedication, not only to the cause of King Charles, whom he called “the churches supream head, ye faiths defender”, but also to the personnel and institutions of the Protestant church as it was then established, in particular Bishop Walter Curle, a dedicatee of the Touchstone of Tradition (Bodl. Benefactors: 45; HRO Touchstone: flyleaf). For seven years between 1613 and 1620 he served as bailiff of Winchester Cathedral’s Hampshire lands, in which capacity he appears in the diary of the dean of the cathedral, John Young, as “Mr Trussell… our bailey” (Goodman 1928: 65, 67). Although a footnote in the published edition of Young’s diary gives his first name as Thomas, a consultation of the cathedral’s register of the common seal proves that John Trussell was indeed the bailiff (Goodman, 1928: 65; HRO Register: 61). There is no suggestion of unorthodoxy here.

[19] Nevertheless, Shaaber was perhaps too quick to dismiss the significance of Trussell’s part in the Triumphs’ publication. As Brownlow noted, “a contemporary reader encountering all three poems for the first time [would] have been surprised, perhaps even startled, to see Southwell’s name spelled out in full in each of them” (Brownlow 1996: 54). The edition of Southwell’s chief poetical works printed in the same year did not broadcast the identity of the author (Southwell 1595a). In stark contrast, not only does Trussell broadcast Southwell’s authorship of the Triumphs, he even makes his second prefatory poem an acrostic of Southwell’s name. Obviously every contemporary reader of the Triumphs would have known that Southwell was not only a Catholic but a Jesuit – especially in 1595, with his execution still fresh in the public’s mind – and would have read it, and any material attached to it, in that light. Openly associating himself in print with a recently executed Jesuit in this way is, undeniably, a surprising thing for Trussell to have done. What, then, might explain it?

[20] The Lipsian influence on John Trussell, visible in the works of his later life, suggests the possibility of an explanation other than Roman Catholicism, which was not the only ideology which Trussell could have read in Southwell, nor the only one which can explain his evident respect for the Jesuit and his Triumphs Over Death. The other is stoicism, in its new Christian and humanist form which had recently been popularized by Justus Lipsius. The Triumphs have been described as “the very reverse of Southwell’s more passionate moods… the acme of Jesuit ‘indifferency’ coupled with classical moderation” (Janelle 1971: 151). The ‘indifferency’ which Southwell was trying to cultivate in Arundel was not, of course, cold indifference to the death of a loved one, but rather a calm, collected and reasonable grief: “mour[n]e as that your friends may finde you a liuing brother, all men a discreete mourner, making sorowe a signell, not a superior of reason” (Southwell 1595b: B). This was the experience of grief which was permissible according to the law of God; not that kind which unhinges the rational mind, but that which manifests the pity and compassion which make us human.

For to be without remorse in the death of friends, is neither incident nor conuenient to the nature of man, hauing too much affinitie to a sauage temper, and ouerthrowing the ground of all pietie, which is a mutuall simpathie in ech of others’ miseries [sic]. But as not to feele sorrow in sorrowfull chances is to want sence, so not to beare it with moderation, is to want vnderstanding: the one brutish, the other effeminate; and he hath cast his account best that hath brought his summe to the mean. (Southwell 1595b: B)

This doctrine of moderation, as Janelle pointed out, has its roots in the placid temper of various ancient philosophies, including the classical stoicism that informed Lipsius’s neostoicism, which consisted in “enduring whatever happens to a man externally or internally without complaint”, and was characterized by freedom from the tyranny of emotion, patience in adversity, and cheerful subjection to God’s will (Morford 1991: 162).

[21] F.W. Brownlow’s incisive discussion of the Triumphs Over Death includes the fascinating suggestion that the title of the work is itself Trussell’s invention, not Southwell’s, since it has no title in the surviving manuscripts, and he convincingly makes the point that it is Trussell who “encourages us to read the piece in more than one way”: not just as a letter from Southwell to the Earl of Arundel, but in the context of the deaths of both men, and “in the context of our own life and impending death” (Brownlow 1996: 55-56). As Brownlow insists, “the stoicism of the Triumphs is the mood of a man who, like a World War II fighter pilot, has to fly until he is killed himself… Southwell’s stoicism is meant to be severely practical advice on maintaining presence of mind and a sense of proportion before impending death”, not a literary exercise in the combination of classical and Christian modes but “the fruit of experience” (Brownlow 1996: 57-58). Trussell, by turning a letter “first written for the consolation of one” into something with exemplary and practical value “for the generall good of all”, as the title page says, made an appropriately humanistic use of the epistolary form. The letter was “a civilized means of intercourse, by which friends are united through the sincere expression of the writer’s thoughts”, including grief and consolation, and both friendship and letters were very public in Renaissance humanist culture (Morford 1991: 72; Machielsen 2013: 161-182). The mood of the Triumphs was already reminiscent of the neostoicism of De constantia – “it could even be described as a Senecan epistle”, as Brownlow acknowledges – and it is characterized by the brevity, grace and lack of affectation which, since Cicero, had been features of stoic writing (Brownlow 1996: 56).

[22] What personal resonances Southwell’s ‘consolatorie epistle for afflicted mindes in the affects of dying friends’ may or may not have had for Trussell we do not know. But Morford remarks that “Langius represented for Lipsius the Stoic sapiens who had achieved mastery over the emotions through Reason” (Morford 1991: 65), and we may wonder whether Southwell represented something similar to Trussell. Of course, to say so is not necessarily to interpret the historical Robert Southwell as a neostoic sapiens. His argument in the Triumphs relies on the (Roman Catholic) Scriptures, not the ancients. Lipsius went further than Christians of either faction were comfortable with in his rejection of sympathy and pity as useless weaknesses (Oestreich 1982: 29). Indeed, Stradling’s preface to the 1594-1595 editions of De constantia acknowledged that Lipsius had been attacked for the secular character of his work. But, importantly, Stradling also made a strong attempt to reconcile Lipsius’s classicism with Christianity:

whereas some men pretend he hath not handled this argument deuoutly enough in that hee applieth not places of holy scripture to his purpose… he writeth so highly in commendation of RIGHT REASON, although somtimes with the words of the Auncients: yet he accompteth no reason pure or right except it be directed by God & illuminated by faith. (Lipsius 1594: A3)

[23] Kevin Sharpe is one scholar who has emphasized “the independence and power of readers… to construct their own meanings” when they interpreted Renaissance texts, including by means of translations (Sharpe 2000: 40). Trussell would have been quite capable of making a connection between the Christian stoicism in adversity of Robert Southwell and the formal neostoicism preached by Lipsius. Moreover, it would not do to over-stress the extent to which the neostoicism of De constantia is at odds with Christian orthodoxy: Oestreich argued that because in Lipsius’s philosophy “Reason is called upon to create a world of self-control, moderation, pious yet active faith, and genuine reverence for God”, it was “enthusiastically received in all camps” (Oestreich 1982: 33). It is, therefore, possible to conceive of an intellectual context for Trussell’s publication of and enthusiasm for Southwell’s Triumphs Over Death which does not automatically imply Roman Catholic allegiance on his part.

[24] This conclusion suggests a more general point about the porousness of confessional and ideological boundaries in the early modern period. The assumption that a man who admired a Jesuit martyr and took his work to print was necessarily himself a Roman Catholic is predicated upon an idea of the over-riding importance and exclusivity of categories such as ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’. While religious divisions were undeniably important to contemporaries, they should not blind scholars today to the reality that early modern people could be capable of transcending them in sometimes surprising ways. Justus Lipsius himself, after all, famously switched between denominations as it suited him. Trussell’s politico-religious attitudes, as far as can be gleaned, had points of sympathy with Lipsius’s in two main ways. Firstly, one reason why he regarded the established church with respect and disliked puritans was that the Church of England bolstered the authority of the monarch who was its supreme head and defender, thus reinforcing the hierarchical structure of society which puritanism threatened; and Lipsius, in Politica, insisted on the political value of religious unity for preserving the state: “Religio et timor dei solus est, qui custodit hominum inter se societem… [ergo] unam religionem in uno regno servari”: ‘it is religion, and the fear of God, which alone binds men together in civil society… therefore in one realm, one religion should be followed’ (Lipsius 2004: 386-390).

[25] Secondly, a key part of Trussell’s conception of religion was that its social function outweighed the finer shades of theology; he lamented the dissolution of the monasteries and the general decay of religious foundations in Winchester, “by means whereof [the] poore were multiplyed,/ and all means for their sustenance denyed” (Bodl. Benefactors: 44), and confidently expressed his belief in the importance of almsdeeds in a poem which skirts around the edge of a denial of sola fide:

Though yt bee trewe that pious almesdeeds are not
The cause of heauen’s enjoyment, yett I dare not
But both beleave & confidentlie saye
They to that place are found the only way. (Bodl. Benefactors: 44)

In another poem he remarks of William Swaddon, a minister who left a bequest to Winchester’s poor, that “hee teacheth best who by example teacheth,/ Not hee that only uselesse doctryne preacheth” (Bodl. Benefactors: 44). These attitudes call to mind a maxim of Lipsius’s, which John Trussell seems likely to have approved of: “Non in subtilitate religio… Sed in factis”: ‘religion does not consist in subtleties, but in deeds’. (Lipsius 2004: 270).

[26] In conclusion, this article has shown how John Trussell, a man below the exalted levels of the courtiers and bishops discussed by Adriana McCrea, also wrote within a version of the ‘Lipsian paradigm’ which she identifies in early modern English literary culture. This gives us an indication of the wide cultural reach of that paradigm. While he was not an outright neostoic, Trussell had read the works of Lipsius sufficiently widely to quote extensively from them, and to share something of the Lipsian outlook. An appreciation of the influence of Justus Lipsius on John Trussell – something never before identified – can usefully inform our understanding of elements of his life and work which would otherwise be prone to misunderstanding, particularly his literary association with Robert Southwell. This in turn can supplement our understanding of the nature of the wider culture in which he lived, and the role classical scholarship could play in reaching across confessional divides.


[1] This article was written during the preparation of my doctoral thesis, ‘John Trussell: A Life (1575-1648)’ (University of Southampton, forthcoming). I must acknowledge the generous financial support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council which has allowed me to undertake this research.[back to text]



Bodleian Library

MS Top. Hants. c. 5 [Trussell, John, The Benefactors of Winchester]

Hampshire Record Office

21M65/C1/29/1 [Consistory Court Act Book 1607-8]

CD/246 [Winchester Cathedral Register of the Common Seal]

W/K1/11/1 [Trussell, John, The Origin of Cities]

W/K1/12 [Trussell, John, The Touchstone of Tradition]


Brooke, Christopher. 2012. Philosophic Pride: Stoicism and Political Thought from Lipsius to Rousseau (Oxford: Princeton University Press).

Brooks, C. W.. 1986. Pettyfoggers and Vipers of the Commonwealth: The Lower Branch of the Legal Profession in Early Modern England (Cambridge: University Press).

Brownlow, F. W.. 1996. Robert Southwell (NY: Twayne Publishers).

Charron, Pierre. 1608. Of Wisdom, trans. Samson Lennard (London).

Cicero, M. Tullius. 1999. On the Commonwealth and On the Laws, ed. by James E. Zetzel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Constantinidou, Natasha. 2012. ‘Public and private, divine and temporal in Justus Lipsius’ De Constantia and Politica’, in Renaissance Studies, vol. 26, No. 3 (June), pp. 345-364.

Craig, Hugh, and Arthur F. Kinney, eds.. 2009. Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship (Cambridge: University Press).

Devlin, Christopher. 1956. The Life of Robert Southwell, Poet and Martyr (London: Longmans, Green and Co).

Drayton, Michael, and others. 1636. Annalia Dubrensia (London).

du Vair, Guillaume. 1598. The Moral Philosophie of the Stoicks, trans. Thomas James (London).

Goodman, Florence Remington, ed.. 1928. The Diary of John Young S.T.P., Dean of Winchester, 1616 to the Commonwealth (London: Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge).

Janelle, Pierre. 1971. Robert Southwell The Writer: A study in religious inspiration (New York: Paul P. Appel).

Juvenal. 1612. Satyrae cum annotationibus ad marginem, trans. Thomas Farnaby (London).

Lawrence, David R.. 2009. The Complete Soldier: Military Books and Military Culture in Early Stuart England, 1603-1645 (Leiden: Brill).

Lipsius, Justus. 1586. De constantia libri duo (Antwerp).

____.1604. Physiologiae Stoicorum libri tres (Antwerp).

____. 2004. Politica: Six Books of Politics or Political Instruction, ed. Jan Waszink (Netherlands: Royal Van Gorcum).

____. 1594. Two Bookes of Constancie, trans. by John Stradling (London).

McCrea, Adriana. 1997. Constant Minds: Political Virtue and the Lipsian Paradigm in England 1584-1650 (Canada: Toronto University Press).

Machielsen, Jan. 2013. ‘Friendship and religion in the Republic of Letters; the return of Justus Lipsius to Catholicism (1591)’, in Renaissance Studies, vol. 27, No. 2 (April), pp. 161-182.

Morford, Mark P. D.. 1991. Stoics and Neostoics (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Oestreich, Gerhard. 1982. Neostoicism and the early modern state, trans. David McLintock (Cambridge: University Press).

Pilarz, Scott R.. 2004. Robert Southwell and the Mission of Literature, 1561-1595: Writing Reconciliation (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing).

Raithby, John, ed.. 1819. Statutes of the Realm, volume 5: 1628-80 (Great Britain).

Rothenburg, Gunther E.. 1986. ‘Maurice of Nassau, Gustavus Adolphus, Raimondo Montecuccoli, and the “Military Revolution” of the Seventeenth Century’, in Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Oxford: University Press).

Shaaber, M. A.. 1957. ‘The First Rape of Faire Hellen by John Trussell’, Shakespeare Quarterly 8, pp. 407-448.

Sharpe, Kevin. 2000. Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press).

Southwell, Robert. 1595. St Peter’s Complaint. With other poems (London).

____. 1595. The Triumphs Over Death: Or, a Consolatorie Epistle, for afflicted mindes, in the affects of dying friends (London).

T., I.. 1616. The A, B, C of Armes (London).

Trussell, John. 1636. A Continuation of the Collection of the History of England (London).

Trussell, Thomas. 1619. The Souldier Pleading His Owne Cause (London).

Whitfield, Christopher, ed.. 1962. Robert Dover and the Cotswold Games: A new edition of Annalia Dubrensia (London: Henry Sotheran).

Next Post

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

© 2023 Journal of the Northern Renaissance

Theme by Anders Norén